Kitchen Garden Journal
- Published on Monday, November 14, 2016, 09:35
- Written by Tim Wilcox
This has been an emotional week and a challenging season. But one thing we've learned in the past 11 years running this farm is that things rarely turn out the way you expect. Every year - every day, actually - we adapt to changing conditions, make a new plan and try something new.
Next week we're excited to join Monte's March to benefit the Food Bank of Western Mass and will walk with members of our amazing farm crew from Springfield to Greenfield to raise money for this important organization. We make weekly donations of fresh produce to the Food Bank and the Amherst Survival Center and we're grateful to these groups for helping distribute our extra food to our neighbors. We've decided to increase our commitment to food access and if you'd like to help us reach our goal for this powerful community effort visit our fundraising page.
Despite the severe drought this season we succeeded in growing more vegetables than ever before. This year we managed a record 50 acres but we ended up only planting 40 as we redrew our field maps and planted and re-planted the few fields where we have wells for irrigation. Many of our lighter, sandier acres without access to water lay fallow after a few failed attempts at germination. Ironically, we've spent the last few years investing in equipment and land to protect against excessive rain events, but hadn't imagined a scenario with virtually no rain at all. We're feeling lucky that we were nevertheless able to grow epic crops of onions, peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash and had plenty of greens, tomatoes, eggplant and roots to keep our farm crew busy harvesting all season. This year we supplied more than 100 stores, restaurants and distributors all over the Berkshires, New York City, Boston, Rhode Island and, of course, the Pioneer Valley.
Our 2016 batch of Sriracha and our new line of Salsas are hitting shelves across New England and we're thrilled to announce that our Sriracha has just been named a Good Food Awards finalist! It's such an honor to be included among this outstanding group of food producers around the country that meet extremely rigorous standards for quality and sustainability. We're heading to San Francisco in January to participate in the Good Food Mercantile and will be crossing our fingers when they announce the winners!
It's been a big year for our Sriracha enterprise and we still can't believe we were selected for a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant which will provide working capital to help us increase production and promote our products more widely in the coming years.
This was our first year in our new barn and it's hard to imagine how we ever survived without it. Our creative and dedicated farm crew has been instrumental in helping us develop new systems for utilizing our new space and strategies for increasing efficiency in the field. We're grateful to these young farmers for showing up everyday with energy and commitment to growing good food and getting it out to our loyal customers. Please join us in thanking Cat M, Cat W, Christopher, Jackson, Joey, Julia, Kelly, Kelsey, Laura, Lilly, Maria, Max, Meera, Meg, Mickaelah, Steve and Taylor, without whom we couldn't do what we do.
- Published on Friday, August 26, 2016, 08:21
- Written by Caroline Pam
Peppers are hotter than ever this year and they're ripening just in time for Chilifest! We're hosting our giant farmer party again this year September 17 & 18 at Mike's Maze in the center of Sunderland! We're offering weekend passes for the first time this year so you can enjoy bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long!
Be sure to come hungry! Mission Cantina tacos, Crooked Stick Pops mango-jalapeno popsicles and Kailash Kitchen dumplings are new this year. And Wheelhouse Farm Truck arepas, Bart's Homemade sriracha swirl ice cream, and our spicy grilled Mexican street corn will be back by popular demand.
This year our Chili Cook-Off will feature some of the best chefs in the Valley and is open to restaurant chefs only. Prepare to be blown away!
The Hot Sauce Competition on Sunday is open to all and there's still time to enter! Register here for a chance to win a terrific collection of cookbooks from Storey Publishing and Kitchen Garden sriracha, salsa and swag. We look forward to tasting your sauce.
Taste and Vote for each competition from 12-3 Sat & Sun; judging and awards at 3:30 both days.
Spicy food in all its forms is what Chilifest is all about. We'll be setting up our display of the hottest peppers from around the world so you can sample everything from mild Hungarian paprika peppers to ghost peppers, Trinidad Scorpions and Carolina Reapers - if you can handle it! Make your own vinegar brined or lacto-fermented pickled peppers at our Pickle & Ferment Tent. Learn from the pros at the Alvah Stone, The Green Room, Sevenstrong, Five Eyed Fox, Revival Homestead & Supply and Yard Birds Farm at the Chef Demo tent. Roll up your sleeves to join our Kimchi Mob led by Maddie Elling of Hosta Hill!
Kids can make salsa in a cooking class led by author Deanna Cook, and shop and play at a kids' farmers market with hands-on activities from Deanna's make-and-play children's books. Plus veggie tattoos, face painting, screen-printing and pinata!
Many thanks to our terrific sponsors for helping make Chilifest better than ever this year! Northeast Solar is sponsoring our live music stage under a solar powered pavillion (check out this awesome video they made about our farm and new solar-powered barn), Farm Credit East and Farm Family Insurance-Viles Agency are essential partners to our farm not only during Chilifest but throughout the year, and we're excited to feature North Adams based Storey Publishing's incredible selection of cookbooks and resources for passionate cooks and gardeners at the festival this year.
- Published on Sunday, May 15, 2016, 08:40
- Written by Caroline Pam
This is the new view of our Sunderland farm, with a brand new barn and high tunnel that are already providing major improvements to our capacity and quality of life this season.
We bought a small piece of land in Whately on the Connecticut River (one of the skinny green strips visible from the top of Mt. Sugarloaf) and in addition to giving us more land to grow on, this additional acreage also provides opportunities for resting and rotating our fields to improve our soils.
This week the first greens and radishes from the field are being processed in the new wash room, solar panels are going up on the south facing roof, and tomatoes are starting to flower in the new tunnel.
We'll be back at farmers markets in Greenfield and Northampton this week and we're thrilled to announce we'll be at two Boston farmers markets this season: Copley Square on Tuesdays and Watertown on Thursdays. We're excited to bring our vegetables and sriracha to the bustling Copley Square market on Tuesdays but seizing this incredible opportunity required us to make the difficult decision to stop attending the Forest Park farmers market in Springfield. We are grateful to all our Springfield customers who have supported us during our farm's first 10 years and we'll miss you!
Save the date for Chilifest Saturday Sept. 17 & Sunday Sept. 18 at Mike's Maze in Sunderland. We're growing more varieties of hot peppers than ever and we already booked an incredible lineup of bands, some fantastic new food vendors, workshops and demos on growing, preserving and cooking with hot peppers, and some exciting updates to the chili cook-off and hot sauce competitions.
Our sriracha was recently featured in the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine and we're blown away by how it's taken off! Our hot sauce is now available in dozens of Whole Foods and other gourmet and natural food stores throughout the Northeast in addition to all our local shops who have supported us from the beginning. We just passed our organic inspection and we're happy to say this year's batch of sriracha will be certified organic! We're also ramping up production of our tomatillo salsa and roasted chili salsa so they'll be available at stores - not just at Chilifest!
Our farm crew is at full strength and we're lucky to have several trusted employees back in new management roles. This week marks the beginning of harvest season and we're excited to welcome a new crop of dedicated and passionate farmers to our team.
Each year is a fresh start but this year really feels new again. With new infrastructure, new land, and new faces on the farm we've got lots of new energy to grow the vegetables that feed our bodies and souls.
- Published on Wednesday, February 03, 2016, 06:10
- Written by Tim Wilcox
These sriracha wings are irresistable. They have been immensely popular whenever I have cooked them for people, so here's the recipe if you want to try it out for your super bowl party.
My recipe combines elements of Thai fried chicken, Pok Pok's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, and Buffalo wings. Plus, it features our Kitchen Garden brand sriracha, which is widely available at stores throughout the Valley (see our Sriracha page for a full list of retailers) and beyond.
- Published on Thursday, November 19, 2015, 07:53
- Written by Tim Wilcox
This greenhouse full of greens is a welcome sight as frost is finally putting an end to many of this season's hardiest field crops.
Happily, our coolers are also full to the brim with colorful carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, radicchio and cabbage that will keep us busy and well fed into the deep winter.
We're thrilled to announce that next year we'll have even more room in the coolers since we just started construction on a new barn! The 40x96 building will give us plenty of space to wash and pack our vegetables year-round with a loading dock and enough storage for all our vegetables, equipment and value-added products. We are grateful to have been selected for an APR Improvement grant from the Mass Department of Agriculture (MDAR) to help with the cost of this major investment. We're also excited to install a 27.75 kW PV solar array to offset our energy use in the new building thanks to grants from USDA REAP and MDAR AgEnergy. Caroline spent countless hours this spring writing the proposals and working out the financials to secure the FSA loan and grants to make this huge project possible. We can't wait to start working in the new barn this spring!
This has been a year of intense growth on the farm, with 14 new acres under cultivation across the river in Whately and a significant increase in production. Tim enjoyed his new tractor commute over the blue bridge and hasn't stopped singing the praises of the light sandy soils on the new fields. We got some new equipment, dialed in some new systems and grew some new vegetables.
Chilifest was bigger than ever and we quadrupled sriracha production (we've already sold half of the 16,000 bottles we made). The Greenfield Recorder made a terrific video of how we make our hot sauce to accompany their article and Edible Pioneer Valley just included our sriracha in their Gift Guide! Caroline will be sampling sriracha on Saturday at Provisions 11-2 and Cornucopia 2-5 in Northampton and at River Valley Market on Monday 4-7. For a full list of where to find our sauce visit our Sriracha page.
Come see us and stock up for Thanksgiving at a special Greenfield farmers market at the Middle School on Federal St. this Saturday 10-1. You can also find our vegetatables at Green Fields Market, Atlas Farm Store, Berkshire Organics and Berkshire Coop Market.
It's hard to believe that 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Kitchen Garden! We started the farm on just one acre with a rototiller and the two of us and the farm has grown steadily to the 40-acre scale we're at now.
We are so lucky to have such a fantastic farm crew who share our passion for good food and are happy to work hard alongside us to grow organic vegetables for our community. Thank you to Amy, Ash, Clara, Courtney, Davin, Dolly, Emily, Jess, Julia, Kelly, Laura, Max, Mike, Rosie, Steve, Taylor and all the others who devoted so much energy this year to helping us grow. And thanks to all of our loyal customers without whom none of this would be possible!
- Published on Thursday, September 10, 2015, 07:37
- Written by Tim Wilcox
Kitchen Garden Sriracha sauce is back! And it really and truly is better than ever. The peppers this year are amazing! And we’re feeling like we’re getting a lot better at making our sauce at production scale at the Western Mass Food Processing Center in Greenfield.
This year’s sriracha production is expected to be about 16,000 bottles, or 4 times the amount we made last year! We’ve increased the batch size and we’re now processing 1500 lbs of our own chili peppers every week at our production facility, and we’re hoping to do 8 to 10 batches, depending on how the season goes.
It’s been going great so far. The weather for growing peppers and now ripening them on the plants has been nearly perfect. The quality of the fruit is really unlike anything we’ve seen before.
That’s been translating into some really yummy sauce. Each Monday we bring a load of peppers to the kitchen, wash and stem them, then put them through a huge dicing machine. From there they get mixed with garlic, sugar and salt and put into 55 gallon drums to ferment for 1 week. The following Monday we run the fermented peppers through a milling machine to remove the seeds and skin, and the resulting juice is mixed with vinegar and cooked into sauce before bottling and labeling. We’ve had to learn a lot about how to use all of the small-scale industrial equipment there. All of this is is going on simultaneously at the kitchen, and it’s a big job for 12 people.
If you want to make sriracha at home, here’s our home scale version of our recipe. I’ve been meaning to make some small batch varietal srirachas just for fun. Maybe I’ll get to it after chilifest? Feel free to use whichever types of chilies you have on hand, the proportions will work the same.
Kitchen Garden Sriracha
- 5 lbs medium-hot red chili peppers (paprika, cayenne, cherry bomb, fresno, jalapeno)
- 16 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 Tbsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups vinegar
- 1 tsp xanthan gum* (optional)
In a food processor, pulse chilies and garlic together until coarsely chopped. In a large bowl or plastic container, thoroughly mix in the salt and sugar. Cover loosely with a towel or lid and allow to ferment for 3-4 days at warm room temperature, 70-80 degrees. After the second day you should see the solids rise and separate from the liquid. There should be lots of bubbles. Stir the mixture every day to make sure the solid part doesn’t dry out too much and start to mold. You can also weigh the mixture down with a clean plate and a heavy object to keep the solids submerged.
After 4 days, heat the mixture gently to a boil in a large pot with the vinegar and simmer for 5-10 minutes. This will stop the fermentation. Allow to cool slightly, then pass the mixture through a food mill or a fine sieve to remove the skins and seeds from the juice and pulp. If desired, add the xanthan gum to thicken the sauce slightly and improve the consistency. (The best way to do it is to use an immersion blender, gently sprinkling in the xanthan gum powder as you blenderize the sauce, so that it doesn’t form lumps.) You can keep the sauce indefinitely in the fridge, or can it as you would tomato sauce.
*Xanthan gum is available at natural food stores or online from Bob’s Red Mill.
- Published on Friday, August 21, 2015, 06:47
- Written by Caroline Pam
Things are heating up on the farm and we've got big plans for Chilifest this year!
This has been an amazing growing season and we're hauling in truck loads of gorgeous eggplants and tomatoes, garlic and onions, potatoes and greens. Now the peppers are starting to ripen and we're harvesting literally tons of hot peppers for our Kitchen Garden Brand sriracha. The official release of the 2015 batch will be at Chilifest!
Registration is now open to enter the Chili Cook-Off on Saturday 9/12 and the Hot Sauce Competition on Sunday 9/13. Entries must feature local ingredients and will be judged by local food experts and voted on during the public tasting. Deadline to enter is September 4!
What could be cooler than slurping a fresh shucked oyster from BerkShore with a splash of KG sriracha? And washing it down with some jalapeno cask beer from the People's Pint? Bart's Homemade is churning a custom habanero ice cream for the big weekend and Neftali Duran is making 100% local tacos served on Mi Tierra tortillas made with Kitchen Garden corn!
This year's music lineup is awesome. And the Kids will be back and we're excited to hear local punk band Potty Mouth, surf rock stars The Derangers, and local favorites Sun Parade, Great Smokey and The Snaz.
Spicy food lovers, take note: We are hosting a one-night-only pre-Chilifest pop-up dinner on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the Five Eyed Fox in Turners Falls.
Tim will be cooking five dishes, each featuring different chilies from the farm. Call early to reserve - seats are limited!
- Published on Thursday, May 14, 2015, 08:11
- Written by Caroline Pam
We just completed our first spring harvest from the field and can't wait to bring our haul to the farmers market this weekend! It's always such an energy boost after months of seeding and planting to peel back the row cover and witness an abundance of food ripe for the picking. We'll be in Greenfield and Northampton on Saturday and in Springfield on Tuesday. Come say hi and pick up some gorgeous radishes, spring garlic, baby bok choy, scallions, arugula, spinach and greens.
We planted many of our spring crops in our new field in Whately, where the soil is light and sandy and it was ready to work before all the fields at the home farm dried out. Of course, now everything is perfectly dry... we haven't seen rain for almost a month! If it's a rainy market day please come out and celebrate with us!
You can also find Caroline this Sunday at the Atlas Farm Store's Spring Festival from 12-4. We're thrilled to to have our spring greens and radishes for sale at this terrific farmstand in Deerfield and Caroline will be offering samples from one of the last bottles of our sriracha in the world (we are sold out until the new batch is ready in September).
We've got a good feeling about this season - thanks in large part to our fabulous crew.
We're getting more done in less time and having fun doing it because of the skill and spirit that these farmers bring to work every day. We love you Amy, Clara, Courtney, Dolly, Max, Mike, and Steve!